March 6, 2017 when I found out my Schengen visa was refused by the Italian Embassy. I was sad and worried. Sad that my trip will not push through after everything I have done and worried that this refusal will be recorded in the centralized Visa Information System shared by all schengen countries, which might affect my visa applications in the future.
But I can’t just give up. I realized that I still have two options, either to appeal or re-apply. I chose to appeal first because I wanted to clear my refusal record. I thought it’s the fastest way, but apparently not. According to the Italian Embassy, “Appeals against refusal decisions must be brought within 60 days directly at the Tribunale Amministrativo Regionale – T.A.R. – of the Latium Region, by a lawyer acting on applicant’s behalf. The appeal will have to be notified, under penalty of nullity (as per art. 144 of C.P.C. and art. 11 of R.D. no. 1611 of 1933), to the relevant “Avvocatura dello Stato”. In addition to that, I found out that only an Italian lawyer can file the appeal. I don’t know any Italian lawyer and it would cost a lot of money to pay for their services. I read many blogs about visa refusals to help me with my situation and stumbled upon the visa rejection story from the Dream Eurotrip
From that blog I was able to find courage to appeal directly to the Italian Embassy. Also, I come up with my Remonstrance Letter addressed to the Italian Embassy.
Basically, what I wanted to say in my appeal letter are Then I checked my documents again to see what else I can add to make them stronger. At this point I want to prove the embassy that the reasons they put in the results are not true. For the reason of insufficient funds, I attached my detailed itinerary again with my daily budget expenses, a summary of all my expenses including the visa fees and things I already paid ahead. This is to show that I have more than enough money for my trip and that I will not be broke when I come back and then I put more money in my bank account and requested a new bank certification and statement. Also, I attached a copy of all of the credit cards I have with corresponding statement of accounts for the last 3 months.
About the uncertain return, I attached again my flight itinerary and the official receipt from Etihad Airways to show them that I already paid my round trip ticket. And for the unreliable purpose of stay which is tourism, I attached again my passport with stamps and visa to show that I have traveled to other countries and returned. But I felt it’s not enough so I also attached my college diploma and transcript of records to show that I studied Interior design in college and that I have subjects on History of Arts that’s why I wanted to visit Italy, Spain and France because I have studied their art and architecture. I scanned all the documents, saved in pdf file and I directly emailed it to the Italian Embassy Visa Office. I got an automatic reply and they said I should expect a reply from them in 5 working days. And that was the most depressing 5 days of my life because I have been thinking a lot if they are going to accept my appeal even if that’s not the standard process for remonstrance.
5 days have past and I got no reply from them. I even tried to call the Italian Embassy but there was no answer. I’m getting frustrated. This whole visa application have been really stressful and heartbreaking.
It was March 16, 2017, less than a month before my departure on April 11th. I woke up and thought I still have an option left, Re-application. At that moment I am not sure whether to re-apply at the Italian Embassy again or to another embassy like the French Embassy. However, I have some hesitations in applying to a new embassy because from what I read in blogs, it could be taken against me for applying in another embassy right after being rejected previously by the Italian embassy. They call it “visa shopping”.
So I decided to apply at the Italian Embassy for the second time. I tried to book a new appointment at the Italian Embassy’s website but the next available time is around mid-April so I took the other option which is to apply thru VIA Centre.
In VIA Centre, there is no need to book an appointment. You can walk in anytime to submit your application. It usually takes at least 15 working days to process your application and there is a service fee on top of the visa fee. But I know this is my last shot to get a visa before my intended departure and I wanted to lay all my cards. It’s all or nothing for me at that point.
So I checked my documents again to see what else I can add up to strengthen my application. I made a new Letter of Introduction indicating that it’s my second application, requested a new Employment Certificate indicating specifically my leave period and when I will go back to work (I had to beg our HR Staff to rush it for me because I have no time left) and I also included a photocopies of my payslips for the last 3 months.
March 20, 2017, I went to VIA Centre around 7am. There was already a queue and I was 10th in line. We waited until they open at 8am. The receptionist first checked the completeness of my application. I think all of us were told that we used an old format of the Schengen Visa Application Form (which I downloaded from the Italian Embassy website and was used for my first application). So we were all given the new application forms for about Php 6.00 (I can’t exactly remember lol). I filled up the form and waited for my number to be called.
There are about 5 counters in VIA Centre. 3 of them serves the Italian Embassy visa applications while the other serves the UAE visa applications. When my number was called I handed my documents to the VIA staff and she checked it for completeness. In general, I think VIA staffs are friendlier and more pleasant than the visa officers in the Italian Embassy. So the VIA staff told me that I have complete documents except for one, the Bank Statement. She said, first time Schengen Visa applicants must submit at least 12 months of bank statement, while only those who previously had schengen visa can submit 6 months bank statement. I was shocked because all this time I thought I only need 6 months bank statement as stated in the requirements checklist from the Italian Embassy. In short, they confuse a lot of people by not giving clear instructions in their requirements. I thought maybe that’s one of the reasons why I got denied.
So the VIA staff gave me an option whether to proceed with my application with my just 6 months bank statement or go back and submit the required 12 months bank statement. I made a quick decision to submit the required bank statement and promised to go back within the day. I don’t want to waste another day because there might not be enough time for them to process my visa application before my departure. The VIA staff returned my documents to me and I immediately went to my branch of bank account to get a new bank statement. I traveled from Makati all the way to Fairview, Quezon City. Luckily, I got the new bank statement in just 10 minutes then I traveled back to VIA Centre in Makati to submit my application. It was a stressful day but thank you to Uber for the very convenient back and forth ride!
I came back at VIA Centre around 12:30pm and went straight to the staff whom I talked earlier to submit my application. She checked it and finally declared it complete then she led me to the next room where they will get my fingerprints. I told her that I already did the biometrics in the Italian Embassy and asked if I needed a new one. She said yes. So I waited for about 5 minutes for my name to be called and another VIA staff took my fingerprints. Then I went to the cashier for payment of the Visa Fee (Php 3,190) and Service Fee (Php 1,100). Application DONE and another waiting game starts. As per their standard procedure, the courier will bring the results to my delivery address within at least 15 working days (ETA April 10!) but I am hoping they will expedite my application because my departure is already on the 11th of April! Nerve-wracking!
This is my last shot and I played all my cards. Whatever the results, I will have no regrets because I already gave my all. But that was another stressful and depressing 2 weeks of my life. I did all I can to cheer myself up. As days go by, my hope is slowly going down. I’m starting to accept the fact that I might not get the visa. I was starting to make new travel plans, maybe Australia, maybe South America, I even considered going to Camp Sawi (Bantayan Island, Cebu) so I can release all my frustrations haha but unfortunately they are fully booked. Hmm….I took it as a sign. Maybe I’ll get the visa!
April 5, 2017, I received a call from my mom that the courier arrived at our home to deliver the results of my application. VISA APPROVED!!
I could not believe it! I cried as I asked my mom if she’s joking. It’s true. I requested for a picture of my passport with the visa stamp on it. It’s true. I cried when I finally saw that greenish visa stamp with my photo on it. I cried as if I was crowned Miss Universe! Now I felt like Pia Wurtzbach in 2015 haha!
There was a letter together with my passport. It basically said that my application had been favorably considered, however, I need to report back to the Italian Embassy in the Philippines within 10 days after my return. Also, there was a note attached to my passport from the Italian Embassy.
That was the happiest day of the year so far! All my effort, all the hardships, all the trials and rejections. Literally a lot of sweat and tears before I finally got what I have been working so hard for the past few months. My dream to finally step in to the soils of Europe is coming true. I fought hard. I did not give up. And now I’m about to embark to a new adventure that I have always dreamed of.
But wait! It’s less than a week until my departure! I still need to finalize and prepare a lot of things before I leave. Euro exchange, book the museums, book the inter-europe flights and most importantly, shop for my ootds! Hahaha! I’m cramming!
I’m going to Europe in less than a week and I’m so excited! First stop……ROME!
to be continued…..